(CTN News) – In the face of potential removal from his position, the president of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, declined to step down on Friday.
Pressure on Rubiales to vacate his role has intensified following Spain’s 1-0 victory over England on Sunday.
Criticism has been mounting steadily, with Spain’s interim prime minister, players’ unions, members of Spain’s women’s soccer team, and even figures within men’s soccer all asserting that his departure is necessary.
However, Rubiales displayed defiance during an emergency general assembly of the federation.
He emphatically stated, “I will not resign,” reiterating this statement four times in quick succession. He alleged that he was being unfairly targeted by what he termed a “witch hunt” led by “false feminists.”
Rubiales’ Controversial Kiss Incident: Shift in Stance Amidst Allegations and Defiance
Numerous Spanish news outlets had indicated on Thursday that 46-year-old Rubiales was poised to resign following an incident involving him grabbing and kissing Jenni Hermoso during the awards ceremony in Sydney, Australia.
This action cast a shadow over the celebratory atmosphere on the global stage.
However, on Friday, Rubiales took a different stance, asserting that the kiss had been “mutual and with the consent” of Hermoso. He positioned himself as a victim of circumstances and received applause from the predominantly male assembly.
Notably, women’s national team coach Jorge Vilda and men’s national team coach Luis de la Fuente were among those supporting his decision not to step down.
Rubiales likened the kiss to something he might share with his own daughters, stating, “The kiss was the same I could give one of my daughters.”
While the televised broadcast of the medal ceremony omitted the initial moments of Rubiales congratulating Hermoso, it did capture him firmly grounded before he proceeded to hold her face and kiss her.
Rubiales declared his intention to defend his honor in court against politicians, including two ministers, who labeled his kiss as an instance of sexual violence. One of these critics is acting Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who called for “urgent measures” from the government.
Díaz asserted, “Impunity for macho actions is over. Rubiales cannot continue in office.”
Alexia Putellas, Hermoso’s teammate and a two-time Ballon d’Or recipient for being the world’s best player, expressed support on the platform known as X (formerly Twitter). She posted a message stating, “This is unacceptable. I stand by you, my teammate, Jenni Hermoso.”
Rubiales’ Controversial Gesture and Apology in the Presence of Spanish Royalty
Shortly preceding the kiss incident, Rubiales executed a victory gesture by grabbing his crotch, a moment that unfolded with Queen Letizia of Spain and 16-year-old Princess Sofía in close proximity.
Subsequently, Rubiales extended an apology for this action, attributing it to a surge of “euphoria” and clarifying that it was intended for Vilda on the field.
In response to Rubiales’ actions, the initial voices from the upper echelons of Spanish men’s soccer expressed their disapproval on Thursday, when it seemed like his departure was imminent. These critical sentiments persisted following Rubiales’ impassioned speech on Friday.
Former Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas commented on the situation on the platform known as X, stating, “What an embarrassment. We should have spent the last five days talking about our women players, about the joy they gave us all! About how proud we are that they gave us a title that we didn’t have in women’s soccer, instead…”
Borja Iglesias, a forward for Real Betis and occasional member of Spain’s national team, declared that he would abstain from representing his country again “until things change.”
Rubiales’ Involvement in UEFA and Potential Impact on Leadership Positions
Rubiales holds a position as a Vice President of UEFA and is a member of its executive committee.
Although UEFA has not commented on the initiation of proceedings against Rubiales, in the event that the Spanish federation were to remove Rubiales, they could potentially request UEFA for the right to nominate a replacement.
If FIFA were to suspend him, Rubiales’ seat on the executive committee would remain vacant until the subsequent UEFA Congress, at which point a replacement would be elected.
The ongoing FIFA proceedings could also potentially impact Spain’s joint bid with Portugal, Ukraine, and Morocco to host the 2030 Men’s World Cup finals—a bid that Rubiales is actively involved in leading.
The host decision is slated to be made at an extraordinary FIFA Congress in the final quarter of the upcoming year.
The Women In Football organization issued a statement applauding FIFA’s actions and added,
“The public response underscores the expectation for appropriate measures regarding Rubiales’ conduct, actions that in most workplaces would trigger disciplinary measures at the very least. Given his prior comments about those who criticized such behavior, labeling them as ‘idiots and stupid people,’ Rubiales’ apology falls short.”
“The 2023 Women In Football survey revealed that 18% of women in football have encountered workplace sexual harassment. Unwanted physical contact is unequivocally unacceptable. The responsibility lies with men and their employers to address this matter—otherwise, the issue will only exacerbate.”